);
Toronto Raptors

Four takeaways from a thriller between the Toronto Raptors and Portland Trail Blazers

The Toronto Raptors closed their five-game homestand on Friday with a thrilling win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Kawhi Leonard led the way with a game-high 38 points, but it took a team effort to take down the hottest team in the Western Conference, with Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol both having big games for the Raptors.

With that in mind, here are four takeaways from a thriller between the Raptors and Blazers...

The centre rotation

Marc Gasol's second game as a starter went much better than the first.

In 32 minutes of action, Gasol came close to his first triple-double as a member of the Raptors with 19 points, eight rebounds and six assists. He was efficient both as a scorer and playmaker, shooting 9-for-13 from the field and committing only two turnovers.

The Raptors outscored the Blazers by 23 points when he was on the court, giving Gasol the highest +/- of the game.

Serge Ibaka, meanwhile, struggled off the bench. He scored two points on 0-for-5 shooting in 15 minutes and the Raptors were outscored by 18 points with him on the court, giving him the worst +/- of the game.

Gasol might be too good to come off the bench, but Ibaka's skill set makes him a better fit as a starter than a reserve on this team. For that reason, it's going to be fascinating to see how Nick Nurse manages the two down the final stretch of the regular season and in the playoffs.

The Blazers backcourt

With the Raptors focused on containing Damian Lillard, it was CJ McCollum who stepped up for the Blazers.

McCollum led the way through the first three quarters with 31 points on only 15 shot attempts. He went 7-for-9 from the 3-point line, tying a career-high in makes from the perimeter.

McCollum cooled off in the fourth quarter, but Lillard then took over down the stretch by scoring 13 of his 24 points in the final frame. Lillard hit a huge 3-pointer with 1:12 to go to give the Blazers a 113-110 lead and then drained three free throws after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt a minute later to tie the game at 117.

The duo helped the Blazers overcome a 16-point deficit in the second half.

Unfortunately for Lillard and McCollum, it was Kawhi Leonard who had the last laugh.

Kawhi Leonard

Leonard was spectacular once again for the Raptors.

The three-time All-Star was at his best in the fourth quarter, when he was responsible for more than half of Toronto's scoring. He scored the final four points of the game for the Raptors, including a pull-up in the closing seconds to give them the 119-117 win.

According to Basketball-Reference, it's Leonard's seventh game-winner of his career and his second as a member of the Raptors, the first coming against the Brooklyn Nets last month.

Leonard finished with a game-high 38 points on 14-for-22 shooting from the field, 2-for-4 from 3-point range and 8-for-8 from the free throw line. He also had five assists, three rebounds and three steals.

In other words, Leonard did a little bit of everything for the Raptors.

Another clutch win

According to TSN's Josh Lewenberg, the Raptors are now 11-4 this season in games that are decided by three points or fewer. Not only is that the most wins in the NBA, it's far superior than their 5-7 record in those situations last season.

Leonard has been Toronto's best player in crunch time, but Serge Ibaka, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry - among others - have each had their moments late in games this season.

Lowry even had a big basket in Friday's game, draining a floater over Jusuf Nurkic with 35.3 seconds remaining to help the Raptors regain the lead.

This group's ability to grind out close games is one of the many ways they're different from Raptors teams of the past.

More from NBA.com

serge-ibaka-041819-ftr-getty.jpg
Nurse says lineup change could be coming for Raptors
Scott Rafferty
marc-gasol-041919-ftr-getty.jpg
Four things to watch in Game 3 of Raptors-Bucks
Scott Rafferty
Andre Iguodala
Iguodala (calf) 'questionable' for Game 4
Yash Matange
bucks-lopez-ilyasova-ftr.jpg
Can the Raptors stop the Bucks' supporting cast?
Kyle Irving
Kevin Durant, Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James
Teams to come back from 0-2 in Conference Finals
Yash Matange
Damian Lillard
Report: Lillard playing through rib injury
Yash Matange
More News